Friday, July 20, 2012

"Woodburning" by Toad the Wet Sprocket/Glen Phillips

ARTIST: Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket
SONG: "Woodburning"
WRITERS: Glen Phillips, Todd Nichols
ALBUM: Dulcinea on Columbia Records
YEAR: 1994
SITE: Toad the Wet Sprocket
BUY: Dulcinea - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Glen Phillips has written many great songs within his different bands and as a solo artist. This one by Toad the Wet Sprocket always calls my name when I hear it . . . and to be perfectly honest, gives me major guitar riff envy.

BA: Thanks for giving me some of your time today, Glen. I’m excited to talk to you about this song that I’ve enjoyed for so many years.

GP: Hiya. It’s a pleasure.

BA: Right out of the gate, I need to mention that there’s a fan-made video for this song on youtube that features an animated knights-in-armor sort of scenario. Is that pretty much exactly what you envisioned when you wrote this song?

GP: Machinima is my favorite cinematic school, so - yes.

BA: I’ve always really connected with "Woodburning" in an interesting way. I find that its instrumental components give the listener just as much to think about as the vocal/lyrical elements. Which came first, or were they written at the same time?

GP: Todd wrote the music for this one. I wrote the words and might have messed a little with the melody. Or at least I think I did. It was a while ago.

BA: I love the form of this song, and the different moods that the sections each
contain - especially the pre-chorus:
“And I find myself, here in another home . . .”
Did the song always end on that section, or was that decision made in the

GP: Pre chorus has a good bounce . . . once again, I don’t know precisely how it came to be. We tended to have our arrangements well worked out before recording. Tended to do a fair amount of experimenting ahead of time, though.

BA: There’s a message of defeat and disappointment in the lyrics, without an explanation for who/what the subject is. Is it part of a larger story or statement within the album, or is this song its own contained work?

GP: There wasn’t any kind of conscious theme for the record. As for the general content, I like to have songs be emotionally specific but situationally vague. They seem to last longer if I go that route. Instead of being one specific disappointment, I can spread it out over many disappointments, like a sad almond butter.

BA: Are you speaking as yourself in this song, or are you assuming the role of someone else?

GP: Both? Mostly I try to hit something that feels true and worry less about who’s saying it - over time we play all kinds of characters. Every once in a while I’m writing for a particular person, but then I spend most of my effort making that person as universal as I can.

BA: I know your band was touring heavily leading up to the making of the album, Dulcinea. Was "Woodburning" written on the road?

GP: We never wrote on the road. Not much open time.

BA: What is the title in reference to?

GP: We were friends with a Santa Barbara band called The Woodburning Project. When Todd brought in the main riff we thought it sounded a little like them . . . the name just stuck.

BA: The recording on the album has a strong energy. How much of it was
tracked live?

GP: We tracked everything together, but probably replaced the main guitars and vocal.

BA: What were you listening to at that point in your life?

GP: Lots of Talk Talk. Laughing Stock.

BA: I know that Toad has returned to touring in recent years. How is it to play this song eighteen years later – assuming that it still makes the set list?

GP: It’s a fun one live. I like singing it. Still need to work out the ending, though.

BA: What’s your favorite song right this minute?

GP: This minute? "In Germany Before the War" by Randy Newman.

BA: Thanks for you time, Glen. And thanks for the great song.

GP: You’re very welcome. Thanks for checking in.


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